Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is a group of inherited conditions that damage nerves outside the brain and spine (peripheral nerves).
It's also known as hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy.
The peripheral nerves are located outside the main central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). They control the muscles and relay sensory information, such as the sense of touch, from the limbs to the brain.
People with CMT experience:
Symptoms of CMT usually begin during teenage years or early adulthood, although they can start at any time. CMT is a progressive condition, which means symptoms slowly get worse as sensory and motor nerves deteriorate.
Read more information about the causes of CMT.
See your GP if you notice symptoms of CMT. If it's suspected, you may be referred to a neurologist (a doctor who specialises in treating conditions of the nervous system) for further tests which could include:
If you or your partner has CMT, or if you are pregnant and know you are carrying a gene that causes it, you may consider pre-natal testing. There are two possible tests that might be used:
Read more information about how CMT is diagnosed.
There is currently no cure for CMT. However treatments can help relieve symptoms, aid mobility and increase the independence and quality of life for people with the condition.
CMT is not life-threatening, and most people with the condition have the same life expectancy as a person who does not have CMT.
Read more information about how CMT is treated.
Living with CMT
CMT can cause further health complications which may affect your lifestyle. It can lead to deformities in the limbs, such as:
It may also cause problems with using your hands, leading to difficulties performing everyday tasks, such as opening cans, typing or picking up objects.
Living with a long-term (chronic) condition that you know will get worse can have an emotional impact, leading to depression.
Some people find it helpful to speak to others with the condition through support groups. Research shows that a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can also help people cope better with a long-term condition.
Read more information about complications of CMT.
You can also find more information, support and practical advice about living with CMT on the CMT UK website.
Who is affected?
CMT is one of the most common inherited conditions that affect the peripheral nerves. It is estimated around 23,000 people may have the condition in the UK.
Women and men are equally affected by CMT. The condition affects people of all ethnic groups equally.